So often we don’t see the benefit of long-term gain of God’s plan because we’re lost in the aggravation of today. Let me offer a personal experience of how sometimes, at the end of a difficult time, we find we have traded pain and stress for joy. God puts the right challenges and difficulties in our pathways to teach lessons well beyond the immediate. I learned to do hard things in a unique setting when I was in high-school.
I have a couple of unusually short “little” fingers, so stretching to type in typing class was difficult and a little painful. My teacher, Mrs. Harbuck, would have none of my excuses and wouldn’t give me a break. Avoiding the work not only lowered my grade, Mrs. Harbuck had no problem scrutinizing the students who didn’t finish, or didn’t carefully finish their work – in front of the whole class. She embarrassed me about missed assignments and poor work more than once in front of the whole class. This scrutiny angered me, but her course was required and unavoidable. Repulsed as I was by Mrs. Harbuck, there was only one way to go, and that was through her class… somehow.
After one embarrassing episode, I decided to skip a weekend of earning pocket money hauling hay or planting seedling trees to catch up on my typing homework. I was one poor or missing assignment away from failing. I was also angry and ready to show Mrs. Harbuck she was wrong about me. I would show her! I typed the entire weekend on our old manual Underwood typewriter. It wasn’t easy, but I pushed through and caught completely up on my assignments. And then, to stick it to my teacher, I worked ahead an entire chapter. I thought, “Now let her try to flunk me or embarrass me!”
Monday afternoon, when everyone else turned in 4-pages of work, I turned in 16-pages. The look on Mrs. Harbuck’s face was priceless. Her stern “church-lady” persona softened to a look that was almost pleasant. With eyebrows raised, she said “Well, let’s see what you’ve done.” She graded the work while the students did their new class assignments. At the end of the class, she came to my desk and handed me the graded pages, saying “Now that you’re all caught up, you can re-type your working ahead. It’s there, but its sloppy.” I bit my tongue and rolled my eyes… Not the praise and celebration I expected.
Mrs. Harbuck had a mastery of being irksome. I looked some daggers her way and took back the graded work. When I got home, her grating response provoked me to retype the work with the precision of neurosurgeon. My mission was to turn in the typing work and dare her to find something wrong with it, and that is just what I did. I double-checked it over the next few days. As she assigned the next chapter of homework that Friday, I was turning in as close to a perfect assignment as I could muster well ahead of the rest of the class.
“Now, don’t you feel good about this weekend?”, Mrs. Harbuck asked
With a slightly snarky tone I answered “I’m glad I won’t be typing.”
She provoked, “If I hadn’t been hard on you, you might have failed. Now, you’re turning in a half-way decent assignment ahead of schedule… You’re welcome.”
Flushed and annoyed, I held my tongue and left the class with the rest of the students as we all went to lunch. At lunch we were talking about weekend plans, relationships, work, and homework, and it dawned on me that I was going into a weekend without the burden of doing, or missing, a typing assignment. I really did feel relief that Mrs. Harbuck wouldn’t be singling me out for embarrassment. I was glad that my grade was pulled back from the brink of failure. I was proud of what I accomplished.
Mrs. Harbuck changed my entire work ethic in that typing class. I thought I was enduring an annoying, strict authoritarian. Instead, she turned out to be a gift from God that would mold me into mindset of proactivity and going above and beyond. Mrs. Harbuck changed my attitude from disliking and being annoyed by those who delivered a challenge, to embracing and enjoying a challenge. She might have made me a good typist, but the most important thing she taught me was good character.
34-years later, I still look back and thank Mrs. Harbuck for challenging me and holding me accountable. As I have managed businesses, counseled people, led ministry and many other leadership roles, I have help grow others with the lessons I learned from her. God’s blessings don’t always come to us as shiny, happy-faced and candy-coated. Some come from tough people who hold you accountable.
Thanks Mrs. Harbuck.
Psalm 37: 30-31 “The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.”